Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A city in a day: Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia. What a city. If you’ve ever been I know you’ll agree with me on one thing: you HAVE to spend more than one day there.

But I often find myself in places for just a day and wonder how I will see the sights in a day without it being like a bad night of speed dating.

I promise the following is a REAL day – you know, six to eight hours, not a ridiculous list that you can’t possibly do in a day. I don’t know about you, but when I visit a place, especially if I’m on holidays, I DO NOT get up before 6am. I also like to take enough time to actually enjoy the sights, not see them for five seconds and move on.

9am – Coffee: the breakfast of champions

I can’t start my day (any day actually) without a coffee and Melbourne has the best brew in Australia.

A local introduced me to a funky laneway café which boasts tasty coffee and an interior not unlike stepping back in time to the 40’s and 50’s. Complete with a barber and shoe-shiner, Captains of Industry is on Somerset Place, just a few left turns off Elizabeth Street, in the city centre.

I had two coffees (yep, buzzing for my big day ahead), and the toast with avocado and lemon. Between mouthfuls, I sipped my water out of a tin billy cup, just like my Nan used to have on the farm.

10am – Melbourne Museum: Surprisingly un-snoozworthy

After breakfast I jumped on a tram to head towards the famous Lygon Street in Carlton, to check out the Italian food, and Brunswick Street, to hit the shops.

One of the tram stops on the way was the Melbourne Museum, so I made a quick decision to jump off and have a browse. I knew the massive King Tut Egyptian exhibition was showing I thought I’d try my luck at getting in without a booking.

Turns out, even on a weekday, you need to book ahead. At 10am all the viewings were booked out until 5pm. So I paid measly $8 to see the regular museum exhibitions and wasn’t asleep by the end of it!

You could take the whole day to stroll through the exhibitions, but I spent 1.5 hours walking through the displays of the city of Melbourne’s history, complete with the stuffed version of the famous galloper Phar Lap. I’m still not sure if I was amazed by this feat of taxidermy or if it grossed me out, but it was an experience all the same.

Phar Lap & the wonders of taxidermy
My favourite display was the human body and mind section, with interactive displays and the history of psychiatry. Not sure what that says about me, but I do love my pop psychology.

If you’ve got kids in tow there’s heaps for them including dinosaur, bugs and creepy crawlies, and earth and space exhibits.

12.30pm – Italian food: I was born in the wrong country

I grew up with a lot of Italian friends in my country town, so I was practically raised on southern Italian food.

For Italian food lovers, Melbourne’s Lygon Street in Carlton is a Mecca. Your biggest problem when you get there will be choosing which Italian restaurant or trattoria you’ll eat at.

I had a cheap and tasty ravioli arrabiata for lunch at Café Corretto, with a cheeky glass of Lambrusco, but if you’re there for dinner Zingarella’s is hard to go past (leave room for dessert!).

2pm – Shopping: giving the plastic a workout

Melbourne has fantastic shopping wherever you go, be it the city or suburbs, but if you’re after a bargain, or something funky and different, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is the place to go. As you migrate from shop to shop, you’ll find a café in every block, to fuel up on caffeine while you rest your weary feet.

Brunswick St
I got a stack of bargains (at more than 50% off) at sale warehouse Clear It. It has designer and regular labels so there’s lots of variety, but go there first so you’re fresh because it’s a bit crazy. While the women aren’t clawing your eyes out to get to a handbag first, there is a lot of stock, and you will have to look through a lot of racks.

6.30pm – Cocktails for dinner Thai for Dinner

As well as a reputation for amazing coffee, Melbourne has a well-earned reputation for great bars and great cocktails.

I had a yummy margarita with a difference at Gin Palace. Some how, they manage to take the taste of the tequila, lemon and salt combo and mix it into one mouthful! The bar is located on Little Collins St in the city, an easy walk from tram stops and city hotels. It’s also close to the hundreds of choices for a post-drink dinner; Thai, Indian and Italian can all be found within walking distance.

Phew! So that was my day in Melbourne.

Have you been? What would you recommend in Melbourne? Or what other places have you crammed into just one day?